What exactly is Deep Water Culture?

Deep Water Culture (DWC) is a type of hydroponic method of plant production where the plant’s roots are suspended in a solution of nutrient-rich, well-oxygenated water. To be considered a DWC, the water depth must be deeper than 8 inches or would be classified as simply a water culture system.

This system is popular among many home hydroponic growers as well as commercial growers mainly because it is one of the simplest systems, easy concept and very inexpensive.

There are three critical elements of Deep Water Culture.

Oxygen: Cannabis needs to get oxygen to its roots.  In DWC, the roots are submerged in oxygen-rich and nutrient-infused water. The extra oxygen makes it so the plant doesn’t drown and is added to the water via air pump and airstone.

Water: Plants need water applied directly to their roots to keep them moist. Like our lungs, plant roots stop working if they are allowed to dry out. While cannabis absorbs light through its foliage, the roots are the main way cannabis absorb nutrients. Pumps, timers and monitors hemp regulate the flow of water to keep things moist without drowning the plant.

Nutrition: Soil normally contains all of the micro and macro nutrients that plantsuse to grow and thrive.  Because DWC doesn’t use soil, supplementing the oxygen-rich water must be infused with nutrients that allow the plants to grow properly. It is important to use a nutrient system designed for cannabis in order to get the best results. I have found that the best nutrients to use are Dakine 420 products. They have some of the best yields and easy four-step formula make it easy to grow a crazy-good crop!

DWC requires some micromanaging but offers many advantages to traditional growing. People report as much as 20% increases in yield and only takes half the flowering time of soil. Side by side tests by everyone from seed banks to home growers repeatedly show that the extra effort it takes to keep a DWC setup in the green more than makes up for it in the bottom line.

It is called Deep Water Culture for two reasons.

First, DWC uses a deep reservoir to hold the water.  More water means more stability in your nutrient solution but some systems come as small as 3-5 gallons. Small systems are difficult to keep balanced so scale becomes an asset with this style of growing. Some automation is required to ensure the cultivator can sleep.

The second reason is because the root mass is continuously submerged in water.  Methods like ebb and flow expose the plant’s root zone to air and drench them in water periodically. In DWC, the plant’s root system is submerged 24/7 in oxygen-infused water.

This style of cultivation is sensitive to temperature and nutrient levels which makes many growers invest in chillers and reverse-osmosis machines. This is done to ensure the water remains in optimal condition for the plants.

Challenges that come with DWC.

These challenges can be avoided if regular maintenance is performed on the system. In small systems the pH, water level, and nutrient concentration may fluctuate wildly. Cannabis has a specific diet and changing the ratio can lead to serious damage to the crop.

An electricity outage/pump failure can be a total disaster. Cannabis plants will use up the available oxygen in a matter of minutes. A plant can easily drown if the power is not restored within a few minutes. Even if the power is restored quickly, the plant may still drown if something gets reset in the outage.

Growers willing to overcome the challenges involved in Deep Water Culture are rewarded with increased yields and reduced grow times. While not as easy a technique as soil, the extra effort is worth the rewards for many growers. Thanks for reading.


Adam Rhodes

An adventure seeking nerd, nothing too serious but people seem to like him, Adam is also the creator and writer for The Strain Domain

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